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Airtel Africa Q3 underlying revenues jump, but FX weighs on results

(Sharecast News) - Africa-focused telecoms group Airtel Africa said it intends to launch a share buyback worth up to $100m after a strong underlying performance in the third quarter, though currency movements weighed heavily on growth. Revenues at constant currency were up 21% year-on-year in the three months to 31 December, but reported revenues fell by 8.3%, mainly due to the devaluation of the Nigerian naira.

For the first three quarters of the financial year combined, constant-currency revenues grew 20.2% to $3.86bn, but were down 1.4% on a reported basis.

Total customer numbers increased by 9.1% to 151.2m, helped by the continued penetration of mobile data and mobile money services. The company saw a 22.4% increase in data customers to 62.7m and a 19.5% increase in mobile money customers to 37.5m.

Earnings per share before exceptional items dropped by 34.6% to 7.1 cents due to a $140m derivative and FX loss net of tax as a result of a weakened naira while capital expenditure grew 8.2% to $494m.

"This strong operating performance has limited the impact that currency movements have had on the group. In this regard, whilst further currency devaluation, particularly in Nigeria, has weighed on our reported financial performance, it will not affect the execution of our growth plans," said chief executive Olusegun Ogunsanya.

Airtel Africa said the share buyback is expected to start in early March and was a result of its progress to reduce leverage and strong operating cash generation. "The board believes that repurchasing its own shares is an attractive use of its capital in light of the group's strong long-term growth outlook," the company said.

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